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Hey Nineties kids…try something a little older!

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November 8, 2013 by heligena


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I’m a book nerd. I could try and deny it but at this point, my patented teenage ‘above suspicion’ face has pretty much receded back down into a slightly more creased, ‘ah screw it’ countenance. Anyway the point is, even when I was younger one of the things I loved the most was locking myself away in my bedroom and losing my angsty nerdlinger self in a new fantastical teenage world. And since the Young Adult novel has now become a bit of a cash cow for the movie industry I wanted to put my thoughts out there on some of the more old-school stories that fired my imagination outside of school hours. So I’ve put together a list of five books/literary series I absolutely adored in the prime of youth and that could (in my humble opinion) give Twilight and The Mortal Instruments a hell of a run for their money…

• The Deptford Mice Trilogy by Robin Jarvis ( including the Dark Portal, The Crystal Prison and The Final Reckoning):
(Critics reviews for Jarvis have described his work as both “Genre Busting” and “original, spooky, unusual, psychological supernatural horror fantasy with a very modern twist”.)
With the first novel published in 1989, this sounds like a typical kiddie drama, being as it involves a cast of plucky mice attempting to thwart the apocalypse brought on by a particularly vicious demon cat named Jupiter… but trust me, this ain’t no Animals of Farthing Wood. Dark, labyrinthine and inspiring nightmares in many a young brain I honestly believe this could be easily reworked to fit an adult audience. With the massive scope involved (starting in the murky underground sewers of London and zooming out into the nightmarish frozen British countryside) you could definitely make a sequence of movies out of the trilogy although if you ask me a TV series would probably work even better, allowing time and space for it’s moral machinations to play out. But how would they film it? It’s an interesting question. Animation of course would be easiest, although it might lead the audience to assume the tales are just for kids. Perhaps a more avante garde form of animation then- something akin to Belleville Rendez Vous or Waltz with Bashir, to give the thing some murky European edge. But my money would go on mo-cap a la Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf, allowing the actors involved to really inhabit the roles…

My Potential Casting:
• Albert Brown- 1st choice Timothy Spall, 2nd choice Bill Nighy
• Audrey Brown- 1st choice Imogen Poots, 2nd choice Juno Temple
• Jupiter- 1st choice Mark Strong, 2nd choice Ian McShane

• The Word and The Void Trilogy by Terry Brooks (including Running with the Demon, A Knight of the Void and Angel Fire East):
(Critics reviews for Brooks have described his work as “FABULOUS . . . A breathtaking run of near-catastrophes and revelations” and “Darkly tinged contemporary fantasy.”)
The Word and the Void is a trilogy of dark urban fantasy novels primarily set in Illinois in the late 20th and early 21st century. The series focuses on John Ross and Nest Freemark, forced acquaintances who use magic given to them from the Word (the embodiment of good in the world) to prevent mankind from being overcome by the demonic forces of the Void. Again typical YA fare you might think. But this trilogy really did a number on me at the time and I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to be anyone as badly as I wanted to be Nest Freemark at the time! Interestingly, it was announced back in 2012 that HBO had successfully struck a deal to develop this trilogy into a TV series, with Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss at the helm and Terry Brooks helping out as creative consultant. And this obviously makes my heart sing like a freaking canary. But since nothing has been heard since, on the off chance this collaboration doesn’t come into being, I still want to put my vote out there for someone to drag this trilogy onto the big or small screen. The Midwestern location would add some grime to the fantasy elements (see Carnivale for an example of this) and the lack of simplicity in the morality on display would capture an audience’s attention without doubt.

My Potential Casting:
• Nest Freemark- 1st choice Taissa Farmiga, 2nd choice Sharni Vinson
• John Ross- 1st choice Michael Shannon, 2nd choice Logan Marshall-Green
• Pick- 1st choice Brad Dourif, 2nd choice Barry Pepper

• The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (Alan Garner):
(Critics reviews have described the work as “a tour de force of the imagination, a novel that showed almost every writer who came afterwards what it was possible to achieve in novels ostensibly published for children
The novel, set in and around Macclesfield and Alderley Edge in Cheshire, tells the story of two children, Colin and Susan, who are staying with some old friends of their mother while their parents are overseas. Susan possesses a small tear-shaped jewel held in a bracelet: unknown to her, this is the weirdstone of the title. Its nature is revealed when the children are hunted by the minions of the dark spirit Nastrond who, centuries before, had been defeated and banished by a powerful king. The children also have to compete with the wicked shape-shifting sorceress Selina Place and the evil wizard Grimnir, each of whom wishes to possess the weirdstone. Along the way Colin and Susan are aided by the wizard Cadellin Silverbrow and his dwarf companions. Now, I know, I know, it immediately sounds very Lord of the Rings/Chronicles of Narnia but give this story a chance if you will. It might have been written in the 1950’s but it has all the key elements of great drama- epic travails over landscapes including forests and mountains, deep seated family tensions and an eclectic cast of eccentric characters. And in fact, it’s already been made into a musical and a radio 4 drama in it’s time so it must have some worth beyond the page. This story to me screams movie rather than TV though and with Peter Jackson busy entertaining the world with his Hobbity exploits perhaps it’s time for another small time horror director to expand his horizons and make his name with this one- Ti West (House of the Devil) or Jim Mickle (Stakeland) perhaps?

My Potential Casting:
• Susan/The Stonemaiden- 1st choice Emily Browning, 2nd choice Emilia Clarke
• Colin- 1st choice Johnny Simmons, 2nd choice Logan Lerman
• Cadellin Silverbrow- 1st choice Frank Langella, 2nd choice Bruce McGill

• Z for Zachariah (Robert C. O’Brien)
(Described by critics in the following way – “This tale of humanity after atomic war brings to mind “Lord of the Flies” and will have similar icy and compulsive effects on readers.”)
Z for Zachariah is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel that was published posthumously in 1974. The name Robert C. O’Brien was the pen name used by Robert Leslie Conly. After the author’s death in 1973, his wife Sally M. Conly and daughter Jane Leslie Conly completed the book guided by his notes.[1] Set in the Midwestern USA, the story is in the form of a diary written from the first-person perspective of sixteen-year-old Ann Burden, who has survived a nuclear war and nerve gas through living in a small valley with a self-contained weather system. When a stranger threatens her little haven, Ann first hides then helps him when he falls sick. The novels plot the pair’s difficult relationship and the problems inherent in being the only survivors of a nuclear holocaust. Again though, it seems I’m a little late to this particular party as there are whispers out there in the movie-news pavilion that this is already on the CAA pre-production slate- to be directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance) and set to star Amanda Seyfried, Chris Pine and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Sounds awesome to me, but once again, on the off chance that funding is pulled or ‘creative differences’ rear their ugly head, put me down as a proponent of this novel’s impact. It’s surprisingly powerful for a YA book, especially one finished by someone other than the author and although the epistolary structure might prove difficult to translate into film (voice-over being the obvious means of adaptation I guess), it has plenty of horrific imagery to leave us with. You very rarely get to see a post-apocalypse world through the eyes of youth so surely that alone should ignite your curiosity. And if not, then just try and imagine how you would live day to day in a world void of any other people. That should do the trick…

My Potential Casting:
• Ann Burden- 1st choice Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 2nd choice Chyler Leigh
• John Loomis- 1st choice Josh Duhamel, 2nd choice Eric Dane

• The Runaways by Ruth Thomas:
(This novel was hailed by the Guardian for “Its originality and particular success lying largely in the warm, gradually loving, relationship between the two central characters.”)
The Runaways is a children’s novel by the English author Ruth Thomas, published by Hutchinson in 1987. It features eleven-year-old Julia and Nathan who find “an enormous sum of money”, do not report it, and flee the city when they are threatened with punishment.[1] Opening in the East End of London where Thomas was a primary school teacher, the story moves to places including Brighton and Exmoor. Thomas and The Runaways also won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime book award judged by a panel of British children’s writers. I’m surprised actually that this has never been adapted for the screen. The story of a white girl and a black boy running off together to the wild moors of Southern England after finding a stash of money could have been practically tailor-made for the British kitchen-sink film-makers of our age such as Ken Loach or Mike Leigh. What really drew me to the story though was its affinity for the outsider, the kid who was labeled as either weird or difficult by those in authority; an idea that seems to have directly spawned all the modern YA films (see Beautiful Creatures, the upcoming Divergent or any of the Twilight monstrosities.)
And perhaps because of this saturation, it seems to me that The Runaways could go one of two ways if you wished it to be successful- it would either have to be set further in the past than the 1980’s when mixed race relationships were a source of social tension or the story would have to be relocated to a country/area where this still ranks as a problem for society at large (say deep south, USA for example. ) Either way, I think the movie version of this book could be really fantastic and I for one, would welcome it as an antidote to the glossy glut of magical teen films overloading the multiplex.

My Potential Casting:
• Nathan-1st choice Solomon Glave, 2nd choice Tyler James Williams
• Julia- 1st choice Maisie Williams, 2nd choice Georgie Henlie

So, that’s me, striking a blow for the readers who always loved a good book and are just about to hit their thirties. Please, feel free to let me know if you read any of the things listed above or if you fancy adding your own titles to the list. I welcome all to the table!

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